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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  July 9, 2010 12:00pm-12:30pm EDT

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. the looming showdown between the federal government and the state of arizona over the issue of immigration is shaping up to be a major constitutional showdown. at first, a look the immigration battle with thomas saenz, president of the mexican american legal defense fund. it also, actor joe morton stops by talking about his role on the cbs drama "the good wife." he also stars on the of syfy series "eureka." thomas saenz and joe morton, coming up right now. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a
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difference, you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and answer, nationwide insurance it is happy to help tavis improve of financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: thomas saenz as president and general counsel of the mexican american legal defense and education fund, founded in 1968. tom, good to have you back on the program.
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>> good to see you. tavis: let me start by going right at this argument as we have been discussing it. i am starting to hear an argument being made by you and others against this laws in arizona. what i'm hearing is an argument made on constitutional grounds that this is about the unity of the country or the disunity of the country if it is allowed to goorward. there are other states wanting to copycat what arizona did. tell me what the genesis of the argument is that you will levy against the law. >> the suit that we filed together with other organizations, including the aclu and national immigration law center are a number of claims, but the primary claim is under our constitution, the federal government has the exclusive authority to regulate immigration. that stems from the
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constitutionally assigned authority to engage in foreign relations and establish naturalization roles. it also makes logical sense. we would cease to be one country if arizona had its own emigration law and california had its own and texas and maryland and maine and all the rest of the states had their own immigration laws. we would cease to be one country and each state would be its own country if they each had their own regulations. >> if the governor of arizona were on this program, her response would be we are only doing what we have done because the federal government have abdicated their responsibility to doing exactly what mr. saenz says that ought to be doing, which is to secure the border and we are only doing it because the federal government has not stepped up. >> there are certainly issues with the immigration laws and regulations. i would probably have different views of the problems, but constitutionally, the remedy for a state like arizona and the
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governor, who is on satisfied with the program, is to direct the representative of arizona and congress and the senate to change the law, to change the federal regulations. we don't have any self-help provision in the constitution that says if you are dissatisfied with something the federal government is doing you can do it on your own. arizona may be dissatisfied at how they are conducting foreign policy, but that does not give arizona or the governor the right or authority to engage in her own negotiations with a foreign government. this is exactly the same. tavis: i suspect her argument, playing devil's advocate, might be as a republican, and may not agree with obama's foreign policy objectives, but his foreign policy issues are not directly impacting the governments of my state. illegal immigrants are directly impacting life or the quality of life in my state, impacting
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taxes, the work force, law- enforcement. it is different then at foreign policy, she might argue. >> first, it is not that different. foreign policy has an everyday affect around the country. part of foreign policy is the fact that through the course of the last administration, we are engaged in two wars in afghanistan and iraq. that has a direct influence on what happens in every state, including arizona, with the impact of people sent overseas, the effects of their families to remain stateside, and the aftermath of returning, some of them with severe and lifelong injuries. that is part of foreign policy. the premises is not correct. beyond that, i know that governor brewer's fax -- gov. brewer's facts are not true. she most recently argued that the majority of folks crossing the border are drug mules, and even the border patrol had to
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explain politely there was not a lot of truth in the suppose the fact she was relying upon. if you look at what is going on in arizona, crime has gone down, not up. the suggestion there is a connection between illegal immigration and law and order is false. if you the greatest impact in the 1960's and 1970's, if it were implemented, but i don't it will be, if it went into effect, the greatest problems it would create relates to law- enforcement. you would see law enforcement officers cease to have cooperation from the community. as soon as the community understands that a law enforcement agency is required to enforce immigration laws, and immigrants, but undocumented and legal, will no longer have the confidence to cooperate with the police and investigating other crimes. there will be a public impact if this were implemented on crime, going in the opposite direction.
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it will increase criminal problems. tavis: speaking of the governor, governor brewer met with president obama in the white house about this issue. the president subsequently has given a speech in washington to the nation about the immigration issue. let me ask what you make of the speech that he gave about immigration reform. >> i think it was important because it reemphasized how urgent is that we address the need to reform our and verma. -- to reform our immigration laws. we have not made any progress in attempting to address the problems of our immigration system. i think the president's speech emphasized the urgency, and he i think leveled a challenge at leaders in congress from both parties to recognize that urgency and begin to make concrete steps forward and how to reform the immigration system. tavis: he said in a speech that
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he cannot advance the agenda without republican support. i want your thoughts on that. second, there are of those who thought with respect to the president that it was not a ploy but there was something he had to do with the midterm elections, not wanting to surrender the hispanic vote by not saying anything about what needs to be done about immigration reform. >> i don't think it was a ploy, but i think about whether it was political or not depends on the follow-up. i think the president is correct, it requires congressional leadership on both sides of the aisle to accomplish the kind of change we need. i also think there is still a role beyond the speech for the immigrant -- for the administration to play in leading the congress towards making the kinds of changes that are needed. tavis: i know the sentiment, but why does it require, one might ask the president, leadership on both sides of the aisle? we thought by partisanship was the answer on health care. when it came down to it, he did
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not a single vote from the republicans, yet health care was passed. why couldn't one might ask the same thing be done about immigration reform if the democrats pushed it through? >> good question. i think part of the answer lies in the fact we have a situation now where apparently the majority in the united states is 50, and now 51, and the democrats only have 59 votes at this point, 58 with the passing of senator byrd. that is the political problem and why bipartisan support is required. historically, whenever we have changed immigration laws, it has taken a bipartisan approach, is take an agreement from leaders on both parties to accomplish this significant change to have immigration better reflect the constitutional values and national interests. it should not be impossible to achieve. over the course of the last decade, as you know, we have had
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a number of proposals to address immigration reform and a comprehensive way and limited way to make progress in beginning to make the changes if needed. all of those efforts that included support from both political parties. tavis: without getting into the details, there are about three smaller deals right now the white house could be instrumental in getting pushed through without having to wait for the big immigration reform measure. are you hopeful about that? >> i am hopeful we can make some progress in 2010. i think the community has waited a long time to get something accomplished in changing the immigration laws. some of the discrete bills you have mentioned have a real chance of moving forward. one of them would benefit those who were brought here as children at an undocumented status and have done well enough in school to move on to higher education or military service. these are kids who are ready to make a real contribution to the economy, but to get all this
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education all the way through university and sometimes graduate school and are not able to work because of their status. this would give them the opportunity to make a contribution to the economy that they are eager to make. i think it is important. another bill would focus on the fact we have one industry, particularly in port in california and the nation, agriculture where there is not much debate whether is not a domestic work force. tavis: one minute to go. it to the case the department of justice has filed to fight all in arizona, he intimated earlier you believe that case will be successful. if it is successful, will commit success means stopping the law before it goes into effect july 29. can it be that effective? >> we have a date right now of july 22, one week ahead of the implementation, for a preliminary injunction. i expect the federal government will also get a similar day or
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same date for their motion. if we get a preliminary injunction, that means the law cannot take effect while we move forward with resolving the constitutionality in court. tavis: chances of that happening? >> a very good chance. the standard to determine whether to grant a preliminary injunction is how likely you are to succeed on the legal merits. we have a strong case about the supremacy of federal law and whether there is irreparable harm is the law is implemented. tavis: have followed this issue and will continue to follow this issue to see what the shutdown brings. thank you for joining us. up next, actor joe morton. stay with us. tavis: joe martin as a talented actor who has enjoyed success in theater, television, and film. in addition to his role on "the good wife," he currently stars in the syfy series "eureka."
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here is a scene from "eureka." >> tess said something about more solar flares then in a decade with tons of negative energy. >> sorry, jack. i think she was right. >> that is not very supportive. >> no, i mean about the solar flares. the cycle every 11 years. the last flares of this magnitude was the 1940's. >> and that is it. >> it would take a massive satellite antenna to harness that and it has not been invented yet. >> you sure about that? >> last time i looked. tavis: there have been jokes for years about the absence of brothers and science fiction, the absence of brothers in the future. you have done a few. idea, that particular
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james asked why i wanted to play the character, and i said it was because of a joke by richard pryor. he said they always kills off and science fiction because they know we will not be there in the future. i think that is what got me the job. tavis: what is it that interstate you in the first place? >> it is funny, and never did. "terminator 2" just came around. before that, i was playing lawyers and generals. suddenly, this one movie comes along and as hollywood would do, they say, oh, science fiction. even with "eureka," i got that because the gentlemen who directed an episode of "house" was also the director of the pilot. it was never anything i pursued. if pursued me. i figured why not. tavis: you said two things that
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are both fascinating for me. i don't watch "house." i am not a regular viewer. i was on an airplane traveling internationally a few months ago, and they had this whole collection of every "house" episode. i was on the 18-hour airplane ride. i popped and one episode and that whole plane ride, i kid you not, i watched every episode. i just saw the episode with you a couple months ago, a powerful episode. i thought, where is the story line going? >> it was interesting to play an obama-type character, running for the senate, who has a dark secret. i think what makes "house" work is to have this guy who loves people but hates mankind. i think that is what makes it work. tavis: the thing i have always
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admired about your work is the types of characters you play. i want to know what you think, why is it that you get to play doctors and lawyers and generals and educators? there is something about your persona that works in those authoritative roles, where some of the brothers are trying to move from planning pimps, etc. he masteredm@ and now when i entered the business, i was mostly interested in playing a diversity of black men. i made up my mind early on that if i was going to play a pimp or bad guy, i had to be a real reason for it. i was not going to play the boogeyman just to be him. i would not take those roles. somebody will, but it will be my job. really i made a part of what i did it in my career, to question directors and producers and say, why can't a black man played that part?
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i played a lawyer in "the good mother," a piece about a woman who is separated from her husband, ends up with a lover, and they unfortunately make love and have their child in the bed. when i interviewed the director, he said you have to be very careful. i said i want to play the lawyer. he said we have to be careful how we use black people in this movie. the use of black people was mostly indigents, the usual way that you "see black people in the movies." i said, you just did like you are a lawyer. i said that is what this interview is about. i think i have spent a lot of time presenting myself when i get into a situation like an interview so they think, oh, it will be hard to say no. you actually have to say no because we don't want him playing the part, and most people don't want to say that. tavis: most of us think of actor
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interviews, the director interviewing the actor, not the way you describe it, the actor interviewing the director. you got me on that. >> i think the way i was taught, those two minutes, however long it is you are in front of people, are your two minutes, not theirs. when i first came to new york city, i did not have much money. i cannot afford pictures or resumes, so used to tear off the back of a matchbook and write my name and telephone number on that. when asked me where i could get in touch, i would give them that, thinking they will remember the idiot who gave them the matchbook cover and call. tavis: what happens, though, when you are not yet joe morton and you are asking these questions that make the grass across the table uncomfortable? -- that makes the guy across the table comfortable? >> they become joe martin and occupy the space you are in. you have to say this is my two
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minutes. the executives, directors, producers, all those people do the same thing in their careers. they sat down said, this is who i am, this is what i want. there are five questions i think in my career that i use for any script that i have ever had. i use it for every line and word. they are, who am i, where am i going, who i expect to me, and last, what do i want, and what to boot -- and to what extent am i willing to go to get it? that is the way i have approached every job i ever get. tavis: wow. you ought to trademark that. it might be too late. and it belongs to the teachers that i worked under. -- >> it belongs to the teachers that i learned under. tavis: i promise i'll come back to "eureka," but i am having a eureka moment with you. how does it feel in this
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business when you see others, to the point you gave earlier, where it is not for you, that is somebody else's gig? does it bother you there is always somebody else who will take that role that may be demeaning or denigrating, that may not show the complexity of character? does that bother you? >> it is not mine, god bless them. everybody does what they believe they need to do to survive in this business, survived being the operative word. if that is what you think you need to do, and some people have done it and moved on and done well. my only thing would be if it were a young actor, be careful. be careful because that can be, who they think you are for every role, for every film that comes out, every tv show. you have to present yourself and say you have to do other things. tavis: we see your face, with
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your name, i seen you play all these characters. how did you get in this game? >> i did not know until i was a freshman in college, hofstra university, a psychology major. the first day of orientation, they took us around campus and took us to the theater. they put on a skit about the first year. at the end of the skit, a true story, i could not get out of my seat. i sat there thinking, i like to sing, maybe i can be an actor. i got out of the sea, walk to the registrar's office, and changed my major from psychology to drama. the end of the story is my grandmother was going to help with college and she decided not to predict -- and she decided not to. tavis: once he changed. but you got through anyway. >> i got through anyway. tavis: it was worth it? >> it was worth it on many levels.
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that same grandmother, it must have been my second year out of school, i was en "hair." i got two tickets for my mother and said come see the show. as everybody knows, in the play you take your clothing off. i was the understudy for the major black character and the player who does not do the nude scene. he plays one of the cops who are arrests. i set it up so i would be right next to my mother when i did this. i kept calling the box office, have the tickets been picked up? no. finally they were picked up. i go up and do the thing as the top. i turn, and is not my mother, it is my grandmother. it is my grandmother. i do the whole bit, ladies and gentlemen, and i can hear her say, "and that's my grandson!" tavis: in the middle of the play. >> it was nice to understand that she understood that things
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were not the way she thought. both my mother and grandmother were terrified, obviously, there would only be so far i could get. this was the late 1960's when i started. they were both, my mother was on a bus. at this point i was doing "reason" on broadway. she was on a bus, matinee day, and these women all been on the bus and a half playbills and they're all talking about the play. my mother tells them i am their son, and she signed autographs. tavis: i was thinking "speed." joe morton is everywhere. it has all worked out and now you are on "eureka." the storyline of the series is? >> basically, eureka is the name of the town, not somewhere off in the northwest, occupied by all geniuses.
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henry, the character i play is probably the smartest guy in town, although he loved to tinker with cars. he used to work for nasa. what is lovely about "eureka" it is a syfy show, but it is not monsters from outer space. it is just about this community of people and what they do. these geniuses have sometimes done wonderful things, sometimes have created global warming. it has this wonderful, left of center sense of being. tavis: how cool it to be in a series where you play the smartest guy? >> what is cool about it, we did a series of events last year, and a mother walked up to me afterwards and said the thing she loved about the character i played is that it encouraged other children to become scientists, as opposed to businessmen. she said for that she was very grateful.
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tavis: we are all grateful, not just for that role, but all the roles you have taken that shed light on a lot of stuff. i always enjoy having you on. "eureka"is the show. syfy changed their logo. >> they want to be the special channel. tavis: we will see joe morton on "eureka." that is our show tonight. thank you for tuning in. until next time, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for our conversation with soul singing legend bettye lavette, and her tribute to iconic british rock artists. that is next time. we will see you then. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i am james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference, you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports
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tavis smiley. with every question and answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] captioned by the national captioning institute
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